The Bombay High Court recently dismissed an appeal filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) against the decision of the trial judge to not charge Areeb Majeed under Section 20 of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
A bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Sadhana Jadhav held that there was no merit in NIA’s appeal and dismissed it.
Majeed was picked up on his return to Mumbai after spending nearly six months in Iraq and an FIR was registered against him on November 28, 2014.
During the trial, Majeed filed an application for discharge from the case, which was rejected. Then charges were framed against Majeed under Sections 16 and 18 of the UAPA and Section 125 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
The trial judge, however, refused to frame charge under Section 20 of the said Act, which deals with punishment for being member of terrorist gang or organisation.
Under this Section, any person, who is a member of a terrorist gang or terrorist organisation which is involved in terrorist acts, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may be extended to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.
Submissions and Final Order
NIA’s counsel Prakash Shetty argued that since Majeed was a member of a terrorist gang, he ought to have been framed under Section 20.
Majeed’s lawyer Mubin Solkar submitted that the NIA has, for the first time in this case, alleged that Majeed was a member of a ‘terrorist gang’, they always made the case that he was a member of a ‘terrorist organisation’.
Perusing through the definition of both these terms (terrorist gang and terrorist organisation) under Section 20, the court said:“The above definitions make distinction between the terms “terrorist gang” and “terrorist organisation”. It is clear from the definition that “terrorist gang” means any association other than “terrorist organisation”. The appellant's case, since inception, was that the accused is a member of the terrorist organisation viz. Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).”
Under the definition, “terrorist organisation” means an organisation listed in the Schedule or an organisation operating under the same name as an organisation so listed.
Since the ISIL was included in Schedule on February 16, 2015, which is after Majeed’s arrest, the court said the accused cannot be termed as a member of terrorist organisation and that there was no material to support the stand taken by the NIA that he was a member of a terrorist gang.
Thus, the trial court’s decision to not charge Majeed under S.20 was upheld.